Skyward Construction owner Bryan Ward is bringing something new – and perhaps a bit unexpected – to one of Southwest Washington’s older neighborhoods.
Ward has purchased and completely overhauled a 2,500-square-foot building at 2905 St. Johns Boulevard in Vancouver (an old Smokey’s Pizza location) to make way for a new farm-to-table-inspired brewpub called Victor 23.
The brewery allows Ward to transition into a business that “puts a smile on people’s faces in a way you can’t do as a contractor,” he said, adding that it might help revitalize Vancouver’s St. Johns neighborhood – an area lacking any sort of farm-to-table dining experience.
“People are really enthusiastic about it, especially people in the neighborhood,” Ward said. “I think they see it as something that will really bring the neighborhood back. Everybody who has stopped by is super excited about it.”
Driven by the desire to own instead of lease, Ward found the Vancouver building after an exhaustive two-year search that tested his patience.
“I almost gave up,” said Ward. “I didn’t want to lease a building. I didn’t want to put down a bunch of money and do [tenant improvements] and then five years later be kicked out of the building or have to be at the mercy of a landlord.
“This building just sort of presented itself to me,” he added. “It was just a run down, broken down building, but I saw something in it that I liked. I knew once everything was out of the building that it was exactly what I was looking for.”
The price point didn’t hurt either; Ward said he was able to purchase the building for a fraction of what it would have cost him in Portland, and he used that savings to greatly improve the structure.
“If you saw the building before, there were no windows at all. Now the entire western wall is basically glass,” Ward explained. “From the road, you’ll be able to see through to the processing area. There will be a garage door that will open up to the patio in the summer… It will be light and airy with kind of an industrial look to it.”
In addition to the outdoor patio, which will seat about 20 people, the building will feature a small kitchen, a tasting area that can accommodate approximately 30, restrooms, and an area where beer and beer-related ingredients can be stored.
Ward said Victor 23 will focus on providing “beer that the people want to drink,” whether that happens at the brewery location or not.
“The first beer we’re going to come up with will be our version of a flagship IPA, but we’ll also have a lighter beer, a stout and seasonal beer,” he said. “And we have a lot more capacity in the brewery than what we can possibly sell in the tasting room, so we’ll have to create a flagship beer that we can sell to other bars and restaurants and even grocery stores.”
Joining Ward at Victor 23 is head brewer Eric Rolerkite, who previously worked at Portland’s Alameda Brewing. Ward explained why it was important to hire an experienced brewer.
“A lot of the breweries in Vancouver started with home brewers who didn’t have commercial experience and we’re going to buck that trend a little bit,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to come out of the gates with some really good beer brewed by a really experienced brewer.”
On the food side, Victor 23 will have a limited menu that’s going to be focused on farm-to-table sandwiches made from scratch.
“Everything will be fresh, just like the beer,” Ward said. “Some people may come in for the food and discover the beer, and others are going to come in for the beer and discover the food.
“You have to separate yourself somehow,” he added. “A lot of people are brewing great beer locally, but I don’t think people are putting the effort on all the small things – like quality food – to make it a really good experience. I think people will seek this out.”
Victor 23 is on track to open in late August.